On Saturday evening, 37-year-old Qiao Zhen Li tried to telephone her husband, Yi Lin Zhuo, at his job to tell him she was becoming alarmed by his cousin, who had been seemed to grow increasingly unstable while staying with them in their Brooklyn apartment, where they were raising their four young children.
The cousin, 25-year-old Mingdong Chen, had come to America illegally in 2004 and had held a series of restaurant jobs, but had been repeatedly fired after a week or two. He had most recently been working out of state, most likely in Chicago, but had been fired once again. He had shown up at the Zhou house some eight days ago, as he had on earlier occasions, broke and in need of shelter.
Chen is said to have seemed more resentful than grateful, and he had spent entire days doing nothing when he could have been getting another job and a place of his own. One relative would later report that Li had finally told him he would have to leave.
Li was now so worried by Chen that when she was unable to reach her husband, she called her mother in China. Her mother then telephoned a daughter-in-law in New York, who went with her husband to Li’s first-floor apartment on 57th Street in Sunset Park. They arrived around 10:45 p.m. and pounded on the door.
Chen answered, covered in blood but with no apparent injuries. The daughter-in-law called 911, and two detectives who happened to be nearby on an unrelated robbery case responded. The detectives detained Chen and went inside to discover a home that had been turned to a slaughterhouse with a meat cleaver.
Li was sprawled on the kitchen floor with her 5-year-old son, Kevin Zhou, both of them grievously wounded. Her other three children, 9-year-old Linda Zhuo, 7-year-old Amy Zhou, and 18-month-old William Zhou, lay slashed to death in a rear bedroom.
Li and Kevin still showed faint signs of life, and paramedics fought to save them. Kevin looked tiny on the stretcher as he was carried out, the top of his yellow pajamas cut open, his legs in what looked like bandages. He was loaded into a waiting ambulance that had come onto the block against traffic and now backed up to the corner, then roared off to the hospital 10 blocks away.
But the race was in vain, and the boy was pronounced dead on arrival, as was the mother at another hospital. Chen was handcuffed and taken to the 66th Precinct stationhouse. His bare feet were coated with blood as he was led inside.
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